By Katharine Swindells
BU News Service
BOSTON – Senator Bernie Sanders stood on a small stage on Boston Common Saturday in 30-degree weather, snowflakes in the air, and looked out at the crowd who had gathered to see him speak ahead of Tuesday’s Massachusetts primary.
“There’s a lot of people here, wow,” Sanders said.
Sanders addressed the bundled-up crowd with the same talking points that have filled venues throughout his campaign: Medicare for all, $15 minimum wage, housing inequality and immigrant rights.
He was introduced by local endorsements that included State Reps Mike Connolly and Nika Elugardo, State Senator Paul Feeney and Varshini Prakash, co-founder of the climate crisis activist group Sunrise Movement, which endorsed Sanders in January.
Sanders said the crowd was 10,000 people and that the “establishment is getting nervous” by his groundswell of support.
“I know that I am in a city of great learning, with a lot of universities,” Sanders said. “And I don’t have a Ph.D. in mathematics. But I do know that 99% is a hell of a lot bigger than 1%.”
Despite being in the state where she serves as senator, he didn’t use the speech to set himself apart from Elizabeth Warren. He barely spoke about the other candidates at all, choosing to stick to his policy-based speech.
One exception was his callout of Michael Bloomberg.
“The American people are tired of a corrupt political system,” he said. “We are tired of people like Mayor Bloomberg. We are a democracy, not an oligarchy. We don’t want billionaire’s buying elections.”
While Bloomberg is currently polling in fifth place, polls over the past week have shown Sanders neck-and-neck, and even overtaking Warren in Massachusetts. FiveThirtyEight forecasts him to win 36 delegates compared to Warren’s 22, despite the fact that he is fighting her in her home state.
The state presents a tough fight for Warren and Sanders, who are courting the same progressive wing of the party and have mostly avoided criticizing one another throughout the campaign. After Nevada’s primary last week, in which Bernie outstripped all the other candidates to win two-thirds of the delegate, Warren congratulated him in her primary night speech.
Steve and Ellen Endris of Cape Cod said they haven’t yet decided.
The couple, who have lived in Massachusetts for 30 years, said they really like Warren and would vote for her, but she isn’t galvanizing support the way Sanders is.
“We voted for Hillary last time, and I wish we’d voted for Bernie,” Ellen Endris said. “I think he would have beaten Trump. All our kids and grandkids told us to vote Bernie, and we didn’t.”
For them, the most important thing is that the candidate can beat Trump.
“We need empathy, and honesty,” Steve Endris said. “And we need someone young people will vote for.”
Mike and Emily McCabe were at the rally with their children Martha, Danny and James, navigating a double stroller through the Common.
They said they like Warren, but the revolutionary feeling behind Sanders’ campaign and the “heart” in his campaign tipped them over to his side.
“I think for me, Bernie’s authenticity and the strength of his beliefs really carries me over,” Mike McCabe said.
Warren has refused to answer on whether she believes she will win Massachusetts, instead diverting to talk about her win against an incumbent Republican in 2012.
When asked Saturday morning by an ABC news reporter about Sanders’ campaign in the state, she again avoided the question.
“I know that Massachusetts is a very progressive state, and progressive ideas are very popular,” she said. “And so I’m sure that’s why Bernie is campaigning there.”
Chris Hernadez, a Cambridge Public School teacher who moved to Massachusetts in September, has decided on Sanders and worries that controversial aspects of Warren’s past would make her unelectable.
“That’s the thing about Bernie,” Hernadez said. “He’s consistent.”
But Warren isn’t giving up on her home state. After the South Carolina debate Tuesday night she was endorsed by the Boston Globe, who called her “a leader with the qualifications, the track record and the tenacity.” This endorsement comes in the wake of an editorial in 2018 in which they encouraged her not to run.
In response to polls showing Sanders as a threat, Warren released a list of her 147 Massachusetts endorsements last Tuesday, many of whom are actively campaigning for her. The list includes Sen. Ed Markey and his challenger Rep. Joe Kennedy III, Rep. Ayanna Pressley and Attorney General Maura Healey.
In comparison, Biden has 90 Massachusetts endorsements and Sanders has 24.